High School Theater Rocks!

Brandon Wagner

I love theater! Whether it is a local middle school production of Seussical or Hamilton on Broadway (yep, I saw it with the original cast), the magic of theater always captures my heart, soul, and imagination.

As a high school and community theater director in Duluth for over thirty years, I have seen all of the wondrous things that happen when you gather a group of talented performers and designers together and starting from a bare stage move to a glittering opening night.

Duluth’s two high schools, Denfeld and East, both have active theater programs, as does the Duluth Playhouse with their teen program. For this piece, I had a chance to chat with Peter Froehlingsdorf who has directed at East for the past four years and produced twelve shows.

He says, “I am honored to be a high school theater director at East. The success of the productions speaks highly to the quality of educational programs the students are receiving from our public school educators. Families considering a move to Duluth have a great number of opportunities within our system to choose from. The theater program being just one of many programs for their kids to find success!”

Part of their theater season at East is to do a full-scale musical. Their show this past fall was Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

“This was truly a community event. We had huge crowds turn out, filling over 700 seats at East High School four nights in a row. Not only was I busting with pride, but so were the students, parents, and faculty at East!” Froehlingsdorf says.

Besides entertaining audiences, high school theater helps kids to find their niche, a smaller place in the midst of a big high school that can help them make friends and develop their talents at the same time.

“This past fall, I had two sisters new to East participate in “Beauty and the Beast.” After the show was over, their parents expressed that it was because of the experience their girls had in our theater program, that the tone for their year was set. They felt they immediately had a place they fit in, found friends who they shared a common interest with, and a sense of community to turn to,” Froehlingsdorf says.

He adds, “I have to say, that the goal I had in mind was to make the program something the school could really be proud of, something that was not just for the theater kids, but for everyone, the students, the school district, and the community.  It has become just that.”

There is also a carryover into the community theater programs. Froehlingsdorf notes, “Speaking locally, I have many students who participate in both the high school theater and the local Playhouse shows and classes. It’s rewarding to see students enjoy the theater outside of their high school program. Duluth certainly has plenty of theatrical outlets for these students to try if they want to!”

Whether you are the proud parent of a “theater kid” in a show or an appreciative audience member being wowed at the level of talent onstage, high school theater is a vibrant part of the rich cultural tapestry that Duluth has to offer.

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